By Brad Christensen
UFC returned to Las Vegas for its first fight card of February, headlined by the last fight of Heavyweight legend Alistair Overeem’s career. Now 40 years old, Overeem has been a top contender in the heavyweight ranks for nearly a decade, without ever getting his hands on the coveted belt. His matchup came against the battle-tested 32-year-old Russian, Alexander Volkov.
Before the big men stepped in the octagon there was an important bantamweight dust-up going on between number 2 ranked Cory Sandhagen and number 4, Frankie Edgar. With Edgar also approaching 40 years old, it was seemingly his last opportunity to make a run for the world title. However, it was all Sandman from the outset, looking extremely loose, displaying excellent timing. It only took 28 seconds of the first round for Sandhagen to get the job done, simultaneously punching an early entry for knockout of the year. It was a beautifully timed flying knee that put Edgar to sleep, landing flush on his chin. Sandhagen now seems the obvious choice for a title shot against rugged Russian champion, Petr Yan. Edgar’s next move is far more uncertain, with the American now having lost three of his last five outings.
Number 6 ranked heavyweight, Alexander Volkov started quickly in the main event, immediately pressuring Overeem towards the fence. After landing some powerful punches upstairs, he moved away and began attacking Overeem’s lead leg with precise kicks. The American looked cagey as he tried to find his distance, having limited success with some looping left-hand punches that did nothing to deter the Russian’s relentless pressure. Volkov outstruck Overeem in the first round by four to one, and it was clear to see the 40-year-old’s willpower was waning as he walked to his corner after a brutal first round.
Overeem looked exhausted as he took advice from his cornermen after round 1, but it was clear Volkov was not looking to get paid for any overtime. He began the second round just as he finished the first, with constant forward pressure. Overeem looked to change levels in the second, desperately shooting for takedowns on two occasions. Volkov successfully defended these, obviously looking to stay on the feet where he was having plenty of success dictating the pace of the fight. The end came only two minutes into the second round, with Volkov landing a hellacious left hand on the already bloody face of Overeem.
Having now put together back-to-back wins, Volkov will move into the top 5 of a revitalised heavyweight division. Alistair Overeem will fade out of the picture and into retirement. Hopefully, it will not be the last we see of the big man, as the UFC often looks to keep such well-known faces part of the promotion, whether that be in the form of a commentator, or fight analyst.
We look forward to UFC 258 next weekend, with Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman taking on his former teammate Gilbert Burns.